ACNS Africa Correspondent Bellah Zulu had a Q & A session yesterday with Isaac Ndhlovu, the first ever graduate of the Anglican Alliance's ground-breaking distance learning programme called "Agents of Change."
Mr Ndhlovu was among those that were selected by the Anglican Alliance to take part in the distance-learning course in community development skills developed especially for the Anglican Alliance by the Open University, the world famous distance learning university based in the UK.
The six months course was offered for free and includes modules in many disciplines including Inclusion, Consultation, Governance and Protection of vulnerable people among others.
What made you sign up for the "Agents of Change Programme?
I am passionate about contributing to the well-being of my community and there was no better way of doing it than becoming anAgent of Change. I want to see to it that access to good health becomes a reality for Zambians especially in the rural areas. I also want to see a reduction in maternal and infant mortality rates in rural areas and in Zambia as a whole.
I heard about the "Agent of Change" from our office and I got interested. The then Relief Manager for the Anglican Alliance, Tania Niño, who had visited us here in Zambia, played a major part in encouraging and supporting me to do the programme.
I came up with a unique concept linking transport and good health. I thought of a way of providing affordable transport in the rural areas for expectant mothers and those with under-five children to get to the health centres on time.
The project, called "Motor Bike Ambulance", would also cater for the chronically ill patients. Transport is one of the biggest challenges for people in rural areas - especially here in Africa - therefore this service will make sure that everyone has access to good health.
How does it feel being the first graduate under the "Agent of Change" programme?
It feels great! I have accomplished a great thing in my life. Whenever one is studying and finally graduates, they feel a great sense of accomplishment and that is exactly what I am feeling right now.
I now understand the importance of dedication and commitment. I feel greatly honoured and privileged to have been chosen to be part of the first group. I thank God for that.
What challenges did you face during the course?
I faced a number challenges during my journey. Limited access to Internet in a course where you are largely required to research and do course work online was a major challenge.
The other challenge was limited study time. My job requires me to travel extensively around the country especially in rural areas. So obviously finding study time was difficult. Even when you do, you would be so tired from the long hours spent on the road as we visited our numerous project sites across the country.
Long distance programmes are a challenge in themselves as you have to do most of the work alone. At least we were privileged with study groups, which met about twice a month. This made things a bit easy as we would discuss and help each other out on things that we didn't understand.
How will this achievement change and improve your life?
A: As an Agent of Change, I will use the knowledge that I have got from the course and put it to good use. This will definitely contribute to the improvement of my personal life as well as that of my community.
Usually when such a long journey of studying comes to an end, you may be overcome by the excitement of reaching such an important milestone. You also find yourself with a range of important documents and certificates to mark your great achievements. But while these might be the last things on someone's mind, it's also important to know what these documents really mean and their purpose.
The real benefit is in putting the skills acquired to good use. Otherwise what benefit would they bring if you just hold on to them and not put them to good use.
Your word of advice to other colleagues who may not see the value of this programme?
This is a very good programme especially for project managers and project officials. It helps you understand the whole concept of project management and know why the project is there and for whose benefit.
You need you know how to consult the community, involve them in the project and learn how to work with volunteers, which is key for a community-based project. All these are well addressed in the "Agents of Change" programme.
The different modules allow you to work through and understand all of project management and at the end of it all, the whole church will be full of project managers.
All in all, the "Agents of Change" programme will benefit the church as it will make everyone who does the course understand the importance of a good working relationship with the community.
What next from here?
From here I think it's time for implementation and if possible further studies. I also want to make other people know the importance of being the "Agent of Change" in their communities.
I am grateful to the Anglican Alliance for the privilege they gave me to be part of the "Agents of Change" programme, and lastly my family and workmates for the support during the whole study period.